John Giuca

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John Giuca
John Giuca
Born (1983-10-08) October 8, 1983 (age 34)[1]
Brooklyn, New York, U.S.
Residence Shawangunk Correctional Facility, Wallkill, Ulster County, New York[1]
Nationality United States
Education Bishop Ford Central Catholic High School [2]
Known for Wrongful 2nd-degree murder conviction

John Giuca (born October 8, 1983) is an American man who was convicted of second-degree felony murder in the October 12, 2003 death of 19-year-old Mark Fisher. Giuca was arrested a year after the murder and was found guilty on September 27, 2005 and sentenced to 25 years to life.

In an attempt to obtain Giuca a new trial, his mother, Doreen Giuliano, used an assumed identity to become close to a man who had served as a juror on the case. Her actions were extensively featured in the media. On February 7, 2018, a state appellate court in Brooklyn unanimously overturned the conviction due to prosecutorial misconduct from then Brooklyn ADA, Anna Sigga-Nicolazzi, and sent it back to the Brooklyn district attorney's office, which may or may not opt to pursue a second prosecution.[3]


Doreen Quinn Giuliano met Giuca's biological father, John Sr., when she was 18. The couple separated 3 years later. At 23 she met her current husband of over twenty years, Frank Giuliano, and together they built up a small construction business. Aged 20, Giuca was living at the three story family home in Prospect Park South, Brooklyn, while studying criminal justice at John Jay College of Criminal Justice,[4] and occasionally working as a film and TV extra.[5][6]

Giuca's friends included Albert Cleary, also a college student, and 17-year-old Antonio Russo, a strongly built high school dropout who wore his hair in dreadlocks. Russo had been in trouble with the law. At Russo and Giuca's trial, the prosecution alleged that Giuca was the leader of a gang. Giuca's supporters say he was simply a young man with friends from a variety of backgrounds.[1][5][7]

Murder of Mark Fisher[edit]

Fisher, 19 years old at the time of his death, was from Byram Township, New Jersey. He was a star football player at Fairfield University in Fairfield, Connecticut. Those who knew him remembered Fisher as determined, warm-hearted and modest; he was popular with fellow students and teachers.[8][9]

On Oct. 11, 2003, Fisher took his first unsupervised trip to the city with three other young men from Fairfield. In an Upper East Side bar he met a girl he knew from the university. Fisher got on well with a friend she was with, and separated from his male companions, finally ending up in the company of the two young women (who had missed their train), Albert Cleary (who was the roommate of the Fairfield acquaintance's boyfriend) and Giuca, who neither of the women knew.[4][10][11]

After a bar refused entry to some of them, an unsuccessful attempt was made to get Fisher to take a cab home. The women were invited by Cleary to wait for the morning train at his family home, but because Fisher was not invited they were reluctant to go. One of the women, with whom Fisher had been flirting,[12] later said that she did not want to leave Fisher as he was visibly inebriated and not used to the city. Giuca, whose parents were away, offered to let them stay at his own family home. All five took a cab to the house in Ditmas Park, where the impromptu party was joined by several others, including Antonio Russo.[13] Cleary later said Russo's presence had prompted him to warn Fisher that there might be trouble.[14]

According to testimony, shortly after arriving Russo said "Hey, yarmulke" to Fisher, who was not Jewish.[15] The girl who Fisher knew from Fairfield said that it seemed the other men did not like Fisher, a 6'5" athlete, being paid so much attention by the women.[16] When the party ended Fisher and the two women fell asleep on sofas, in Giuca's home. Police responding to reports of gunfire at 6:30 AM found Fisher's body on Argyle Road, 50 feet from Albert Cleary's bedroom window, only three blocks away from Giuca's house. He had been shot dead.


According to Giuca he last saw Fisher sitting on the sofa draped in a blanket. Giuca said he had fallen asleep after the party ended and that he had no knowledge of the murder. Giuca and Russo quickly became the focus of police suspicions, Giuca's house was searched and he was repeatedly stopped and frisked.[5]

Fisher's family was unhappy with the way the murder of their son was being investigated, and felt that left to themselves, some officials were minded to have it 'swept under the carpet'.[17] Under pressure to get results in the high-profile case, police announced witnesses were being uncooperative.

Media attention leading up to the 2005 Democratic Primary for District Attorney frequently highlighted the investigation into the death of Mark Fisher, and much of it was critical of the District Attorney's Office for a failure to apprehend the killers.[18][19][20] Russo was arrested on November 19, 2004. Giuca was arrested on December 21, 2004.[4][16] After Giuca and Russo were arrested, two other men were tried and acquitted on charges of intimidating a witness in the case. However, one of these two men was convicted of perjury.[21]

Criminal trial[edit]

Prosecution arguments[edit]

Lead prosecutor Anna-Sigga Nicolazzi claimed Giuca's fantasies about being a crime boss had led him to form a gang known as the "Ghetto Mafia", and orchestrate the murder of Fisher.[22] Nicolazzi said the murder "defied common sense". The prosecution accused Giuca of giving Russo a gun, and said he probably brought Fisher to Russo and participated in beating Fisher.[23] Prosecution evidence included witnesses' accounts of what Russo had allegedly said about his own and Giuca's involvement in the murder, and witnesses' accounts of what Giuca had allegedly said about his own and Russo's part in the murder. [24] Cleary said that hours after the body was discovered Giuca had allegedly said, "We may have had something to do with that." Cleary claims that Giuca mentioned he had led Fisher out the house to where Russo was waiting with a gun to rob him, but when Fisher put up a fight Russo had shot him dead.[25] Cleary claimed that in the weeks before the murder Giuca spoke about having the gang kill someone, and had shown him a Ruger .22 pistol at his house.[25]

Defense arguments[edit]

Giuca plead not guilty. His defense attorney, Sam Gregory, told the court that if Russo had committed the murder, it was without Giuca's knowledge, participation, or approval, and that prosecution witnesses had given untruthful and contradictory testimony. Gregory said Cleary had earlier given evidence before a grand jury while failing to mention that Giuca allegedly became angry about an incident when Fisher sat on a table. The defense also said Cleary, who had been convicted of an unrelated assault, considered himself to be a "tough guy," and implied that Cleary could have told Russo where to find the gun that was used to kill Fisher.[20][26][27][28][29] Giuca's defense attorney explained to the court Giuca had not aided Russo, but under pressure to get results in the case, police had made Cleary and Giuca's ex-girlfriend give false testimony about Giuca having confessed to involvement in the murder.[23] Gregory dismissed the evidence provided by a former cellmate of Giuca at Rikers Island who said Giuca had admitted a role in the murder, as a complete fabrication aimed at winning leniency from the authorities.[30]

Verdict and sentencing[edit]

Giuca and Russo were tried together, but there were two separate juries. The felony murder rule allows a person to be held responsible for a murder committed in the course of a felony or by being complicit to the felony, regardless of their intent. After three hours of deliberation, a jury found Giuca guilty on charges of second-degree murder, robbery and multiple counts of criminal possession of a firearm. The jury deciding on the case against Russo took two days to find him guilty. In October 2005 Giuca and Russo were each given a sentence of 25 years to life.[21]

Allegations of misconduct[edit]

Guica's supporters adduced what they said were multiple inconsistencies in witness testimony, police statements, and prosecution arguments, citing that the prosecution had a contradictory case, having argued for multiple mutually exclusive motives and outcomes, ranging from Giuca pulling the trigger to him having ordered the killing occur while he was not there. There are also allegations of prosecutorial misconduct by former District Attorney Hines in several cases similar to Giuca's Those recently winning appeals in such cases include Anthony Yarbough, Jonathan Fleming, Darryl Austin, Robert Hill, Alvena Jennette, David Ranta, William Lopez, Ronald Bozeman, Darrell Dula, Jabbar Collins, and Jeffrey Deskowitz.[31]

Two of the four prosecutions witnesses were former suspects in the case. A third, Giuca's then girlfriend, recanted her testimony. The fourth was a jailhouse informant who had been thrown out of a rehab program days before he was due to testify. Current D.A. Thompson has stated his intent to review the case, but as of yet has not taken any official actions.[31][32]

"Free John Giuca" campaign[edit]

Map detailing the location of Mark Fisher's body in relation to John Giuca's and Albert Cleary's homes.

After Giuca's sentencing a number of people wearing T-shirts bearing the slogan "Free John Giuca" handed out pamphlets outside the courthouse. The pamphlets claimed only a handful of around 150 people subpoenaed to testify before a grand jury had been called to testify in the trial, and said Giuca had not led a gang.[21]

According to supporters of Giuca, injuries to Fisher's body indicating a left-handed assailant, the location of Fisher's body,[33] and details of 911 calls alerting the police, all implicate a crucial prosecution witness in the murder of Fisher.[20][27][33][5] Russo and Giuca were brought to trial 6 weeks before the election.[6][19][20]

Giuca supporters also point to a case in which courts determined prosecutorial misconduct on behalf of the Brooklyn DA.[34][35]

Allegations about the jury[edit]

Looking for evidence that could win her son a new trial, Giuliano investigated members of the jury.[36] By her account, she recalled a friend of her son's had said he recognized a shaven headed man on the jury. After somehow obtaining details of the jurors' addresses that are not officially available to the defendant, Giuliano targeted Jason Allo. Using the alias, "Dee Quinn," Giuliano rented an apartment close to his own, transformed her appearance, and established a close relationship with him.[5]

Giuliano secretly recorded their conversations. After nearly a year, she had collected audio of Allo allegedly talking of his biased attitudes towards Giuca, and connections to the case that should have disqualified him from serving on the jury.[37] Evidence obtained by Giuliano is being used to appeal her son's conviction.[38]


Using the recordings of Allo, a legal brief was filed by John Giuca's attorney Lloyd Epstein, arguing Giuca did not receive a fair trial because Allo failed to disclose his connection and knowledge of people in the case.[11][38][39] Giuca's lawyers said that "Allo's failure to disclose his personal knowledge of Giuca disqualified him as a juror regardless of whether he acquired this knowledge before or during the trial, or both."[11][37] The Appellant Division 2nd Department denied the request for a hearing to review evidence of juror misconduct against Allo.[40] Through his attorney, Allo has said the allegations made about him are not true.[37][38] In November 2010, a panel of four judges ruled that even if alleged statements the former juror had made to Giuliano were true, it was not grounds for overturning Giuca's murder conviction.[7] On May 14, 2013, Federal Judge Frederic Block denied Guica's federal habeas petition.[41][42]

Giuliano's fight to free her son has attracted widespread attention from media outlets in the United States and abroad including Nightline, On the Case with Paula Zahn,[27] The Early Show,[36] Anderson Live,[6] Vanity Fair,[5] The New York Times,[4] The Guardian,[43] and the Sydney Morning Herald.[44] She has also been featured in online media including The Huffington Post[45] and the Gothamist.[38]

In February 2014, an attorney acting for Giuca submitted a petition to Hynes' replacement as Brooklyn district attorney, Kenneth P. Thompson, requesting the conviction be voided. In the petition it was alleged there had been prosecutorial misconduct, a failure by the defense lawyer at trial to point out multiple inconsistencies in the prosecution's case, and recanting of testimony by key prosecution witnesses.[46][47][48]

On June 9, 2016, Guica was again denied his appeal for a new trial. "I have denied the defendant's motion to vacate the judgment" Brooklyn Supreme Court Justice Danny Chun announced in court. The judge also ruled, opposing what Giuca's attorney's had argued, that Guica had received a fair trial more than a decade ago. In Justice Chun's ruling, he pointed out that the case can be appealed. Mark Bederow, Giuca's attorney, confirmed that it will be. "I have no doubt," said Guica's lawyer "His rights were violated. I have no doubt that when it gets up on appeal, [the case] will be vacated."[49]

Conviction overturned[edit]

On February 7, 2018, a state appellate court in Brooklyn, reviewing Assistant D.A. Anna-Sigga Nicolazzi's case against him, unanimously overturned the conviction and sent it back to the Brooklyn district attorney's office, which may or may not opt to pursue a second prosecution.[3]


  1. ^ a b c "NYS Department of Corrections and Community Supervision". Retrieved 10 June 2016. 
  2. ^ Winston, Hella (24 September 2014). "Did an Ambitious Prosecutor Convict the Wrong Man for the Killing of Mark Fisher?". New York Observer. Retrieved 10 June 2016. 
  3. ^ a b
  4. ^ a b c d Wilson, Michael (December 22, 2004). "Second Suspect is Charged in 2003 Murder of Student". The New York Times. 
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  26. ^ NY v. Cleary, 1523 (2003).
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  30. ^ Teen Slain For Booze, Jury Told, NY Daily News, September 23, 2005[dead link]
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  33. ^ a b DD-5 police report, Interview of Albert Cleary, Case No. 3106, Complaint No. 70919 - 10/14/2003 and 11/16/2003
  34. ^ "Jabbar Collins, wrongfully convicted of murdering rabbi 15 years ago, won't be retried: DA's office". New York Daily News. June 8, 2010. Archived from the original on June 11, 2010. 
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  36. ^ a b "Undercover Mother". Early Show. February 24, 2009. 
  37. ^ a b c "Mom's Double Life". Nightline. March 3, 2009. 
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  41. ^ "New York Eastern District Court: Giuca v. Lee". May 14, 2013. 
  42. ^ "Memorandum And Order: Petitioner Giucas § 2254 petition is denied for Giuca v. Lee". May 14, 2013. 
  43. ^ Harris, Paul (February 7, 2009). "How one US mother went undercover in bid to clear 'killer' son". The Guardian. 
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